Guitar String Bending Techniques

bending techniquesString bending is a guitar technique that is often used by lead guitarists to change the pitch of a note. In rock and blues styled music, string bending can be used to create different sound textures and expressive dimensions when used appropriately.

String bending can be achieved by fretting a string and bending it upwards (for 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings) or pulling it downwards (for 4th, 5th and 6th strings).

Do note that the direction of bending described above is JUST a guideline. If you only need to bend the 1st string a little, you can always pull the string in a downward motion as long as the string doesn’t go off the fretboard.

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6 Tips to Mastering String Bending

Tip #1 – There is strength in numbers and you should utilize more fingers when bending strings instead of relying on a single finger. For example, you can get more support and control by placing the second and/or third finger behind the fourth finger and using them all together when performing a bend.

Tip #2 – Grip the neck of the guitar with your thumb. This posture will simplify string bending to a simple contraction of hand muscles.


Proper String Bending Technique

Proper posture

Improper String Bending Technique

Improper posture


Tip #3 – Use a chromatic tuner to check if you have bent the note to the correct pitch.

Tip #4 – Different gauges of strings can affect string bending. Light gauges are easier to bend and give a “wilder” tone (heavy rock music). On the other hand, thicker gauge strings are harder to bend but they can give a richer and warmer tone.

Tip #5 – Make sure there is no unwanted noise generated from other strings when you release a bend. A common issue I see in my students is that their fingers accidentally touch adjacent strings and create unwanted noise. You can avoid this problem by muting strings with your picking hand.

Tip #6 – Experiment with different bends and listen to how slight changes to your bending technique can give rise to different sound effects.

How to Play the Standard Bend

The standard bend is the most common bend which involves changing the pitch of a note by a semi tone or a whole tone. Now, anybody can learn to bend strings in a matter of minutes but getting it right is a totally different matter.

I know most beginners will have problems with getting the accurate pitch of a bent note. The easiest way to practice is to make use of a digital tuner to verify the note’s pitch. Over time, your ears and fingers will get accustomed to bending the note to the correct pitch.

standard guitar bend

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How to Do a Pre Bend

Pre-bending simply means that you fret and fully bend the note before picking the string. After the string is picked, you will release the string in a controlled manner back to its original position.

The idea here is that you begin with a note that has a higher pitch and end up with a lower pitched note.

Prebend on guitar stringDownload .mp3 file ( Right-click Save Target as… )

Smear Bends

A smear bend (aka small bend) is produced when the string is bent very slightly (approximately a quarter note). This particular bend is very important in blues music as it creates a slightly “off” sounding note and gives it an authentic blues flavor.

smearbend on guitar string

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Unison Bend ala Santana

A unison bend is performed by playing 2 different notes at the same time. While maintaining the pitch of a note, a bend is performed on the other note so that both their pitches match.

Unison bends add lots of flavor to a passage of music and you can typically hear them being played in Santana’s or Jimi Hendrix’s solos.

Unison bend on guitar string

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Can You Hit the Correct Note?

String Bending Exercise 1

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This exercise will help you train your ears in picking out the correct pitch when a note is bent. pay attention to the pitch of the target note before you try bending the note to match it.

Jam Track for Practicing Your Bending Technique

Nothing beats an exercise with a jam track for you to play along. You can start off by learning this short solo before you inject your own riffs and creativity to change things up.

String Bending Exercise 2Download .gtp5 or .mp3 file ( Right-click Save Target as… )

With that, we had come to the end of the lesson and I want you to give yourself a pat on the back for completing this tutorial. Feel free to leave any feedback or questions in the comment section below…

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